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Dr. Collins and the Case of the Mysterious Infection


Paula P. Lemons
Division of Biological Sciences
University of Georgia
Sarah K. Huber
Department of Fisheries Science
The College of William & Mary


In this case study, Dr. Collins must diagnose and prescribe treatment for a young patient with a serious infection. Students receive pieces of the case in a progressive disclosure format and answer questions about bacterial infection, antibiotics, and antibiotic resistance. The case was designed for the seminar component of a large-enrollment, introductory biology course. In addition to seminar, students in the course also attend lecture and laboratory. Teaching assistants lead the 12-student seminars, during which students engage in directed inquiry exercises such as this case.


  • Describe some of the biochemical mechanisms by which antibiotics act against bacteria.
  • Evaluate which antibiotics would be effective against a given type of bacteria.
  • Apply basic knowledge of DNA, genes, and proteins (and the relationship between them) to a new question, i.e., how do changes in DNA observed by pulsed-field gel electorophoresis impact patterns of antibiotic resistance?
  • Synthesize the relationship between antibiotic consumption and antibiotic resistance based on what’s been learned about bacteria, antibiotics, and natural selection.
  • More adeptly use data from charts and gels to answer questions.


Antibiotics; antibiotic resistance; bacteria; infection; infectious disease; pulsed-field gel electrophoresis

Topical Areas


Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division, General public & informal education



Type / Methods




Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Microbiology  |   Public Health  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Answer Key

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Chaya Nanavati
Department of Biology
Ohlone College
Fremont, CA
I used this case in a non-majors class on Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. We went over this case a week after they had covered antibiotics and antibiotic resistance. One of the things that puzzled my students was the fact that Kayla died in spite of the fact that the S. aureus that caused her infection was susceptible to vancomycin. In fact, at the end of the case, Collins’ friend, Kurt, suggests a combination treatment of vancomycin/cefazolin, although he cautions her about the possibility of vancomycin-resistance. I would love to get some feedback/clarification/thoughts on this.

Overall, my students love the case studies since they help to tie things together and help them see the relevance of the material presented in lectures. Thanks very much.

Susan Reynolds

Robert Morris College
Springfield, IL
I used this case in an introductory microbiology class consisting primarily of medical assistants in July of 2004. This actually brought together many of the concepts we had discussed. Overall the students really enjoyed this case; however, they were upset when they discovered the patient died. They also wanted some information as to how her hip joint became infected — was it due to an injury to the joint or another infection somewhere else?

I presented this case over a period of four class periods and they seemed to like that. I enjoyed using it and will probably use it again as a project the next time I teach this class.

I may also use this as a basis for homework — such as doing a one-page paper on the different antibiotics mentioned or for further research by the student on MRSA.

Thank you so much for this website.